Inmate claims warders assaulted her after she exposed prison's unhygienic state
Johannesburg - Abuse, inhumane conditions and contraband supposedly smuggled in by corrupt wardens have highlighted the alleged parlous state of South Africa’s prisons during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rhulani Mabunda, a female inmate at Johannesburg Correctional Centre, popularly known as Sun City, shared pictures and videos of her battered self after allegedly being assaulted by prison wardens.
Mabunda said she had been harassed since March after sending out a voice message which detailed the unhygienic and sorry state of prisons before the lockdown. The message went viral on social media.
Department of Correctional Services (DCS) national spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo dismissed Mabunda’s allegations as untrue.
“The inmate is making statements about brutality. How can this be possible when you have oversight bodies monitoring the work that we do and, critically, the treatment of inmates?
“The Judicial Inspectorate is an independent body and is able to access our centres. Inmates fully understand their rights. They can even open criminal cases against officials ill-treating them. You therefore expect media houses to at least subject such statements to some form of credibility testing,” said Nxumalo.
Mabunda stuck to her guns and gave The Star permission to use her name and picture, but her fellow inmates, who also shared videos of what they said were the filthy conditions they were forced to endure, asked to remain anonymous.
Mabunda alleged the televised visit to Sun City prison by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola in April, which served to show how prisons were hygienically ready to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, was a ruse to dupe the minister and the public.
“The officials staged the visit so that the centre would look like it is Covid-19 compliant. They put sanitisers at the gate and put new bed sheets on beds in the quarantine cells. But, as soon as the minister left, they removed all the props and it was business as usual,” Mabunda claimed.
She further claimed she was “illegally transferred” to Upington Prison in April, a week after the release of her voice message went viral, allegedly as punishment for leaking the note and to supposedly cover up alleged shenanigans at the prison.
Mabunda is back at Sun City, in a single cell. “I haven’t eaten since June 21 because I’m afraid of being poisoned. And I take chronic medication,” she said.
Mabunda’s views were supported by a Sun City male inmate, who sent a video to The Star showing the drugs he sold and more than R1 300 in cash on his prison bed that he said were proceeds of his dagga and pills trade.
The inmate, who asked to remain anonymous, accused Nxumalo of lying to the public by saying contraband had been seized entering prisons since the suspension of visits following the coronavirus outbreak.
The male inmate alleged it was prison officials who helped smuggle in illicit goods into correctional facilities.
Nxumalo confirmed Mabunda had released the voice message, but said her allegations were proven to be lies and that the DCS "dealt with" its employees who were involved in criminality.
“Smuggling of dagga, mobile phones and other contraband is not allowed and we have brought to justice some of the rotten apples in our uniform who have been engaging in this illegal craft. Equally, it is of grave concern when an inmate embarks on such heavy and toxic content packaged to portray Correctional Services as an unethical and putrid institution."
“As earlier stated, allegations raised must be investigated. It can also be an area of interest for the media to be appraised of the character we are dealing with," said Nxumalo who gave details of Mabunda's previous runs with the law at the prison:
August 2018 - Assault of an official who then sustained a bite on a finger due to the quarrel she had with the Mabunda while trying to confiscate a cell phone found in her possession. The officer had to be on Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication for 30 days.
December 2018 - Found in possession of a ell phone charger and twin plug.
March 2019 - Assault of an official who then sustained a broken arm while trying to confiscate a cell phone from Mabunda.
May 2019 - Failure to comply with a lawful instruction.
November 2019 - Disrespecting officials.
November 2019 - Smoking dagga.
November 2019 - Assault of two offenders.
February 2020 - Disrespecting officials and threatening the life of an official.
March 2020 - Disrespecting an official.
March 2020 - Sent a voice recording that went viral about the things that were happening at E-unit while she was not in that unit.
March 2020 - Possession of a charger.
March 2020 - Possession of a cell phone, threatening and swearing at officials.
March 2020 - Damage to state property and threatening officials.
June 2020 - Insulting and threatening an official.
June 2020 - Makes false allegations against an official.